Curtis Harrington, 1926–2007


Curtis Harrington, who died on Monday, was chiefly known as a director of low-budget horror films, the most acclaimed of which is his debut feature Night Tide (1961), a watery riff on Cat People (1942) starring a young Dennis Hopper. But Harrington should also be remembered for his associations with early American avant garde cinema, especially the productions of Kenneth Anger. Harrington was behind the camera for Anger’s Puce Moment (1949) and appeared in front of it as Cesare the Somnambulist in Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954). Harrington’s early films were similarly uncommercial experimental shorts, one of which, The Wormwood Star (1956), was based around the paintings and person of Marjorie Cameron Parsons Kimmel aka Cameron. Harrington and Cameron both appeared in Anger’s Pleasure Dome and Harrington featured Cameron again when he came to make Night Tide, where she appears as a mysterious, witch-like presence.

Night Tide is well worth a look, despite the limitations of its budget. Dennis Hopper had been ostracised from Hollywood after a fall-out with director Henry Hathaway and was hanging around with various artists and experimental filmmakers (including Andy Warhol’s crowd), acting in TV shows and generally biding his time. Harrington gave him a starring role and the opportunity to pull some Method faces, and he’s very impressive as he falls for a girl who may or may not turn into a murderous sea creature with the next full moon. Good use is made of the crumbling beachfront of Venice, CA, and there’s some sly camp humour to be found in Hopper’s appearance (he’s dressed in a sailor uniform most of the time, looking like an extra from Anger’s Fireworks), and in the scene where he goes for a (chaste) massage. Night Tide isn’t as strange as Carnival of Souls (1962) but both films share enough of the same atmosphere and period detail to make a perfect double-bill.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Alla Nazimova’s Salomé
Coming soon: Sea Monsters and Cannibals!
Freddie Francis, 1917–2007
The art of Cameron, 1922–1995
Kenneth Anger on DVD…finally

One thought on “Curtis Harrington, 1926–2007”

  1. A curious synchronicity at work here…as only this morning I was sat on the bus to work, reading Rapid Eye 3, specifically Jack Hunter’s piece on Freak Film, and paying particular attention to the image from ‘Night Tide’ that features Marjorie Cameron walking under a bridge with Hopper playing voyeur in the far distance. Oo-ee-oo.
    I’ve never seen this, and only recently saw Carnival of Souls for the first time, which you cite as a companion piece. My film education remains somewhat incomplete…

Comments are closed.

Discover more from { feuilleton }

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading